Saturday, February 27, 2010

Greeting Cards

OK. Haha. It's cute, perhaps even a little clever. Does it really have to take up space on my desk for a week when I'm not gonna read it again? How soon is too soon to throw such a card in the trash? Is this a matter of frivolous formality or an actual ethical issue?

Let's say your Aunt and Uncle write you a relatively nice birthday card. It's a hallmark card but they went the extra mile to fill up all the space on one side saying how proud they are of you and how much they loved seeing you at Christmas. You read it, smile, think for a moment how lucky you are to have family members like them that are so loving. Then you put the card aside on your desk and go about living your life. A few hours later you notice the card is still there. Perhaps you read it again for a little self-esteem boost or feel-good moment. What do you do the next morning when you wake up and it's still there, cluttering your desk? Or how about a week later? I assume having read it twice you aren't planning on reading it again. What purpose does the card serve? Decoration? Usually around birthdays I end up with a pile of several cards underneath some papers rather than propped up as a form of decoration. It must be some sort of guilt I feel that causes me to hesitate putting it in the trash. However, it always ends up in the trash, so the question naturally becomes, at what point has a simple hallmark card overstayed its welcome in your room?

Some of you are thinking, "I keep my meaningful notes." That's great. I usually do too. One of those long, really meaningful, loving notes from a cherished person should certainly be preserved. However, what about the standard granola greeting card that thanks you for the lovely gift or wishes you a happy birthday? A few times I have looked at the situation rationally and attempted to act on such rationality when someone sends me a really short, polite and non-memorable card. "OK so this is going to go in the trash eventually. I do not plan on ever reading this again. The person who wrote it will never know when I threw it out (or even that I threw it out at all). So why not  just chuck it now (as in 10 seconds after reading it)?"

I've done this before and I feel this terrible feeling of self-centered spoiledness and guilt. Even though it's very rational and reasonable (it would seem) to throw out a simple card like that, I imagine if I found out someone did that to a thank-you note I wrote them or something of the sort, I would feel slightly disrespected. I can't justify it, I can't explain it, and I certainly can't say that I never do it myself. It's strange, even the somewhat meaningful notes (like say, a birthday card from your parents on my 18th birthday), I end up reading perhaps a few times but then keeping them for about a week on my desk after without reading it or any intention of reading it. It's as if I feel like "this person put time into creating this thing and it would be such a shame to simply throw it out after it has only been in existence for a few hours or minutes." Or maybe I simply don't want my mom to come into my room the day after my birthday and see that card in the trash? (However "reasonable" such an action may be, can anyone help but be offended by seeing the card they wrote a day ago in the trash already?)

But can we reasonably expect people to keep every card that is ever written to them in some sort of shrine of respect, even though we have no intention of rereading them? Greeting cards are like wrapping paper; one of those products that is intended to be thrown out shortly after it is used... so why do we even bother to wrap presents? (I always feel slightly spoiled throwing out wrapping paper for some strange reason- I mean the person spent time and money on the wrapping paper and then I come along and just tear through the paper like and animal and throw it in the trash an hour after they bought it). Keeping a greeting card for a few days on your desk (even when you know you're eventually gonna toss it without reading it again) is one of those formalities or forms of etiquette (even though no one is watching/ever finds out) that at least I cannot seem to break.

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